Everyone who has been in California knows its magic. Misty and cold mornings that worry – will it stay like this forever? – but later turn into a day with the brightest sun and warmest weather. The ocean is so grand that the surfers look so tiny that you could mistake them for birds. San Francisco – its Golden Gate bridge and streets winding up and down like unpredictable snakes ready to attack and knowledge of which streets to walk and which to Uber. California is a land of plenty. Fresh organic produce, local wines, unbelievably good food, fruit orchards, almond plantations, majestic redwood forests, and nature like nowhere else. The state of all that’s gold.
Text & photos: Signe Meirāne
Two days, a few glasses of champagne, some turbulence and several meals later, the plane door finally opened. The burning Californian sun, although it was already the end of October, welcomed us. With windows down, the sun setting, and traffic at its peak, we slowly approached our hotel (www.tildenhotel.com). Sleep was slowly crawling into our brains, but if there's one thing you have to do, you must stay awake as long as you can, so we went out.
We walked up the hill, introducing our kids to the first night's most beautiful view on the corner of Mason and Sacramento overlooking the bay through the houses. As the evening had just arrived, the city was dressed up with lights making it even more magical to fall in love with. It was time for our reservation at Del Popolo pizza (www.delpopolosf.com) so we took the stretchy potato and taleggio pizza, accompanied by olives, local IPA, and rosé wine, was finished with soft serve and sorbet.
It is surprising how you can think you know the city when you actually don't. Two trips to SF showed us the long streets, good food, foggy mornings, and hot days, but that is not all one wants to know about a city of art, music, and enjoying life. It was museum after museum together with kids that made us feel more local as we went from one to another, starting with the dazzling Ice Cream Museum of San Francisco (www.museumoficecream.com), continuing with the Luxurious Presidio Walt Disney Family Museum (www.waltdisney.org), and finishing with the remarkable family adventure museum - Exploratorium (www.exploratorium.edu). Each is located in different parts of the city offering unseen riches on our way, but the museum themselves – more surprising than we expected.
San Francisco can be intimidating. With so much to see in such a small city. It hides alleys, stairs, and streets of unimaginable beauty. You can be on one hillside overlooking the city where the bay shimmers in the sun, and slowly turn around to reveal another city, where the setting sun and falling leaves dance in the air. It feels like you’ve seen everything when suddenly you find yourself going up the Greenwich steps with the most panoramic view of bay just behind you, unplanned beauty. San Francisco is all about ups and downs –bicyclists speeding down the hill as if it was their last trip ever, while the tram slowly tries to pull itself up. The art of parking is something I admire, just as the mothers walking up the hill with kids in their stroller and full of one, two, and more shopping bags.
Nevertheless, you have to start somewhere, and I had a few places in mind. Head to the Golden Gate starting from the honorable and beautiful Painted Ladies (having breakfast at The Mill or coffee at Sightglass in the middle). You wand to see the breathtaking Lyon Street steps. One may stay up the hill and not go down, but if you go down, prepare to head back up as there is a way to stunning Lovers Lane; paths in the woods right next to an asphalt road have no lovers but a coyote during the season can be spotted. Although people like to take bikes to go over Golden Gate Bridge, it is a pleasure to walk – all the way over or to the middle, slowly absorbing the city, houses, the bridge itself, and the not too far off Alcatraz. Be ready for the breeze to blow your hair and lift the short skirt. The walk should not be abandoned as the magic starts when you go down the Battery E trail to the beach and walk where the locals run, picnic, and walk their dogs. Its a wonderful feeling to run barefoot in October, trying to take in every little bit of the Golden Gate bridge behind and the city in front.
A visit to the Ferry Building’s Saturday market calls for a walk afterward, as the food there just seems to pop in your mouth, whether you want it or not. So, a few hundred steps along the pier lead you to Levi’s Plaza Park and up the Greenwich steps to Coit Tower, a treasure not everyone finds. It leads you to the most brilliant view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the bay and the east-west side of the city leading to Lombard Street, eight hairpin turns, and the most winding road in the world. This place needs time – not only because of the stairs but the moments you want to picture in your memory.
Another overwhelming gem of the city is nothing other than Golden Gate Park with its long roads, bicycle paths, zoo, polo fields, lakes, picnic areas, museums, and barbecue pits. It also hosts the most enchanting thing of all – a Japanese Tea Garden and Rose garden (not only gorgeous, it is an award-winning spread of 60 different heavenly varieties and shapes of roses). It consumes every rose fanatic for a time that tends to fade, as does the luxurious and mystical Japanese Tea Garden. With its small lanes, the Teahouse and its pavilions are not only romantic but a magical place for kids to explore the beauty of another culture.
And last but not least, there's a place called Lands End. The Land stops there only in the form of soil as it continues with the waves of the ocean connecting the bay. It is an astounding scenic point to visit and is even more special if walking from the center after visiting Arsicault bakery and picturesque Lincoln Park steps leading closer to Lands End. From there, it is a way down to Cliff's house overlooking Seal Rock and the small dots surfing in the water. It can all be done also by bike if traveling as a couple. It is a day trip with kids, and all you see will stay in memories – from the Chinese shops in Richmond and Little Russia to the colorful houses in Outer Richmond and Lands End views to feet stepping into the cold ocean. The Outerlands, just 15 minutes away, is a must if you've succeeded getting there – even if you have to wait an hour in line for your table, the time melts the same as the ice in your drink that you sip outside.
to be continued...